May 01, 2008

poetry for character development 7

Your characters have suffered loss at some point in their lives. They've lost a parent, they've lost a love affair, they've lost a job, they've lost a loved pet.

Maybe they are currently in the process of deciding to break up. Maybe they were just dumped. Maybe they have not yet made any decisions and are weighing all the risks.

Whatever the circumstances, have your lead character speak to you in an Elegy to fill you in on the details of that particular loss. If your lead character is untouched by loss, then explore a supporting character to find out how a specific loss has informed their current pattern of behavior.


Poetic Form: Elegy

Elegy mirrors three stages of loss. First, there is a lament, where the speaker expresses grief and sorrow, then praise and admiration, and finally consolation and solace.

Elegy on Toy Piano
by Dean Young

For Kenneth Koch

You don't need a pony
to connect you to the unseeable
or an airplane to connect you to the sky.

Necessary it is to love to live
and there are many manuals
but in all important ways
one is on one's own.

You need not cut off your hand.
No need to eat a bouquet.
Your head becomes a peach pit.
Your tongue a honeycomb.

Necessary it is to live to love,
to charge into the burning tower
then charge back out
and necessary it is to die.
Even for the trees, even for the pony
connecting you to what can't be grasped.

The injured gazelle falls behind the
herd. One last wild enjambment.

Because of the sores in his mouth,
the great poet struggles with a dumpling.
His work has enlarged the world
but the world is about to stop including him.
He is the tower the world runs out of.

When something becomes ash,
there's nothing you can do to turn it back.
About this, even diamonds do not lie.

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